Ryan Murphy says his upcoming Netflix show Ratched, starring Sarah Paulson, will be a “gorgeous story” championing feminism. Speaking at GQ Live in Los Angeles on Saturday, the TV creator explained what had drawn him to the subject, how he was letting women lead the way with the story, and how he thinks the industry truly has changed with regard to LGBTQ stories like his Globe-nominated show Pose.
Based on the Ken Kesey novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and centered around the terrifying character of asylum Nurse Ratched, Murphy described Ratched as a look into the mind of a sociopath. “She’s one of the great villains…she’s like a female Lecter,” he said, referring to that other sociopath in The Silence of the Lambs. “She’s a great, great villain, very misunderstood.”
He said his interest had been sparked while watching the 1975 Milos Forman-directed film starring Jack Nicholson. But instead of focusing on Nicholson’s lead role, Murphy had wondered what made Nurse Ratched the way she was. “How did she get that way? What made her do that? How do you become a sociopath? Most people are not born that way,” he said.
And in typical Murphy fashion, women are being given the lead, as he says it’s “a feminist horror story, that a lot of women are involved with, so I keep waiting for them to tell me when something’s too much.”
Fans are also desperate to know what his next American Crime Story installment will cover. Explaining that he had pitched Trump “a lot” as a topic in general, Murphy said nothing has been decided for ACS yet. “We’re taking our time with it,” he said. “We have a lot of [ideas] we’re working on, but nothing has come up to the forefront yet; nothing I would feel comfortable saying.”
Having received Globe nominations this week for his FX shows Pose and The Assassination of Gianni Versace Murphy said the thing that attracted him to the latter’s subject had been Versace-killer Andrew Cunanan’s longing for fame. He got a big laugh from the audience when he compared Cunanan to Kim Kardashian.
“I was really into in the idea that he did all of this to become famous,” he said. “He was the original Kim Kardashian. What was that about? It was that he had a father who told him that what mattered in the world was money and fame. He couldn’t do it on his own, he had to take it from the people who had it to get it, which was why he killed Versace.”
His other newly Globe-nominated show, Pose–about the LGBTQ ball culture world of ’80s New York–is the work closest to his own heart he said, as it covers a time and a subject he himself was a part of, when he first came to New York in 1987. With optimism, Murphy spoke of the industry change the making of, and the success of this show signifies.
“What was important to me was that it was treated and it was announced like everything that I had done,” he said. “It took a while for that to happen. It would not have happened in 2006. It was only a decade ago I couldn’t get something like that on the air.”
In 2008, Murphy took to his bed for a week, he said, when Pretty/Handsome, his show with now longtime co-creator Brad Falchuk was summarily dumped. “It was right after I did Nip/Tuck,” he said. “I did it, I loved it, it tested through the roof, and then I got a call from the network saying advertisers would not support this.” The subject of the show? A married man (Ralph Fiennes) comes out to his wife and sons as transgender. It was considered unacceptable at that time, Murphy said.
“What’s changed the most is a group of executives who were very dug in about sexuality,” he said. “When I first started I had a terrible executive who would talk to me about why having gay characters in my WB show was a terrible idea….He would imitate my voice in meetings. And I just sat there and took it…but what happened was I think I never changed, but the executives changed. The business let me become a little more aggressive because of that. I don’t think anything has stayed the same, I think it really has changed.”